Chill Out Drown Out: music for when you need to, well, chill out, and also drown out extraneous noise. Tunes for calming down and concentrating on important tasks or just having a peaceful time in the middle of a hurricane of a day/week/month/year/existence. I occasionally feel bad when my highest recommendation for something is “this is excellent background noise,” but – it is truly one of the finest accolades I can give. It means the music has successfully walked the fine line between “delicate, beautiful, but unobtrusive, integrates well into the process of multi-tasking” and “so boring I forgot the first song half-way through.” Resplendent, by In Vivid (Ben Snook, of Lawrence, KS) is indeed delicate and beautiful. The swirling textures and gently propulsive energy make it – for me, at least – ideal for tasks that require concentration and creativity. And, best of all, it stands up to repetition; I listened to it three times in a row one night last week and never got sick of it. Here are three songs to whet your appetite, chosen at least in part because I liked the titles. Lightswitch Indicator: The second song on the record, this one is for when … Continue reading
Brock Zeman, singer/songwriter, is from Ottawa, Ontario, and plays indie rock with country-folk undertones. He recently released his 11th record (!), Pulling Your Sword Out of the Devil’s Back. The title track is more spoken word poetry with music involved than a song. It’s meta-commentary on the art and science and struggle of songwriting and broken hearts and stories that don’t belong to you don’t belong to you and that won’t go away. You won’t be able to sing along, he says, as he rolls to a crescendo, which is true. Still, if I had a car and oceans of prairie to get across, I think I would start my driving playlist with it, just for the satisfying rhythms and final, thundering stop. Little Details, on the other hand, is, for lack of a better term, a rollicking break-up song, and you definitely can sing along:
It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss. In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire. For our second Very Special Presentation of A Good Read . . ., we’re jumping all the way up north to Yellowknife, NorthWest Territories, where singer/songwriter Mary Caroline divides her time between television and making indie-folk music. As an introduction, here are some songs from her debut studio album, Life on Earth: Songs of Winter … Continue reading
Previously on NTSIB’s own personal Canadian Music Week: some rock, some punk, some sweet dirty blues, from the rust belt and the praries. Today we’re jumping out to the Maritimes, to Nova Scotia, and to Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, who have an invigorating sound that draws from Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton traditions. Here are a few tunes from their new record, Sterling Road: Jimmie’s, written for an uncle and the family farm, is a charming delight, sweet as sea breeze on a warm summer day: The Dusty Meadow Variations, a glorious piano and fiddle romp: And finally, their interpretation of Buain A’ Choirce (Reaping the Oats), a Scots Gaelic milling song, which I like because it is both beautiful and gloomy:
The New Wild are Sean and Daniel Guezen of Winnipeg, Manitoba. They play heavy, bluesy garage rock, the kind of thing that will rattle your bones and pin your ears back if you’re standing in the front row. This is Dallas, the first song from their self-titled EP, which causes me to sway along in my chair, grinning, every time I listen to it: The New Wild by The New Wild And this is Play It By Fear, from the same EP, which is . . . something of a cautionary tale, complete with guitars that burst out like the sharp end of a buzz-saw: The New Wild by The New Wild
So, as some of you may know, Canadian Music Week kicks off today in Toronto. I am not there, but, in honor of the occasion, I’ll be shining my light on some Canadian bands and musicians that I love. First up: YouYourself&i (Daniel Gélinas), of Montréal, Québec, with a new EP Heart Static which I like because a) he does actually use static as an instrument! and b) the songs are like sonic puzzles, full of unusual shapes and complicated connections. The tone is gloomy, in places, but yet also shot through with bright shimmery tones. As an example, here is Mummies, the first song on the EP: Heart Static by YouYourself&i And also Blubber, which I could perhaps describe as “a heartbroken computer muttering to itself:” Heart Static by YouYourself&i
And now for something that does not involve a couch: A Simple Way, by TIO, of Toronto. This song is everything I like about electronic music: hypnotic, shimmery, but with a hint of drone, sandpaper and ancient videogames. Plus some ambiguously sexy cover art. Come, let us listen and squint at that picture and wonder if it’s a dick together.
Faithful Brave & Honest is the second full-length from The Honorable South, and while a little bit more mellow than I Love My Tribe, it is no less delightful. Their funky soul vibe is very much intact; if anything the slightly slower pace gives one more space to appreciate their complex jams and Charm Taylor’s beautiful voice. Here are a few of my favorites: Overdue, which has trippy alternating tones floating over a slow, hypnotic beat: Faithful Brave & Honest by The Honorable South Champagne, which is built around a heavy, aggressive rock and roll guitar: Faithful Brave & Honest by The Honorable South And finally The Sun Dance, which is fluid and mellow and a call to try harder and shine brighter: Faithful Brave & Honest by The Honorable South
Earlier this week I was, once again, noodling around Soundcloud looking for one thing when I found something else: Dogs in the Daylight by Jeffrey Martin. Old Good Friend was the first song I heard, and I’ve been sitting with it these last few days, letting it simmer. Thinking about some of my old good friends, and olive branches, and whether I want to extend them. Whether I can extend them. I still haven’t decided. Dogs in the Daylight is the title track. It’s less of a gut punch than Old Good Friend but really that’s like saying aged whiskey is smoother than new. Most of the rest of the record is available for test-listening at Soundcloud; I say “most” because it was recently re-issued with four additional songs. It’s excellent, and all y’all should go and listen to it.
I Believe, by We Were Strangers: This one is easy to sink into and get lost in. I made it through twice before I paused to wonder what, exactly, was going on here – were the rich piano tones and lush strings disguising a dark tale of love and kidnapping? Or being kidnapped by love? The answer, as it turns out, is somewhere between “maybe” and “kind of,” depending on how you feel about settling on one person; per singer and chief lyricist Stefan Melbourne, it’s about “letting yourself commit to someone, and sustaining that.” Also appearing on this track: James Kenosha (drums and piano) and Lins Wilson (cello). Kenosha, who initially heard the songs when Melbourne posted them under the name The Works of Isaac, also acted as producer. The band is from Manchester, but their first show will be at the Bedroom Bar in London on February 25th; check it out if you’re in town.